There are many great things about this dish, but the greatest must be its swiftness. The sauce takes the same amount of time to cook as the pasta, so it can be ready in under 15 minutes. And yet it absolutely doesn't taste or look like something you just casually whipped up in the time it takes most people to lay the table. Its ingredients are also available year-round so this is a brilliant number to have in your recipe arsenal.
3 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 head of fennel, tough outer layer discarded and the rest finely sliced
1 tsp fennel seeds
A good pinch of dried chilli
A pinch of saffron, soaked in a dash of warm water
1 x 400g tin of plum tomatoes, drained and rinsed, or 300g cherry tomatoes, quartered
100ml dry white wine
200g linguine or spaghetti
400g-500g mussels, de-bearded and scrubbed
A handful of parsley leaves, finely chopped, plus extra, to serve
Extra-virgin olive oil, to serve
Place a wide, heavy-based pan (with a lid) over a medium heat. Pour in the olive oil and add the garlic, fennel, fennel seeds, and chilli. Add a pinch of salt, then fry gently for about 5 minutes until the fennel is softened and garlic begins to colour on the edges.
Tip in the tomatoes, wine and saffron and its water. Season well, then leave to simmer for 10 -12 minutes (5 minutes if using fresh tomatoes) until the wine has cooked off and the sauce has reduced.
Meanwhile, bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the linguine according to the packet instructions.
Just before the pasta is ready, stir the mussels into the tomato sauce, turn the heat down to medium-low and cover with the lid. Steam for about 3 minutes until the mussels are open. Stir well and discard any empty shells. You can always take all the mussels out their shells if you want.
Drain the pasta, reserving half a cup of cooking liquid, then stir the pasta and the parsley through tomatoey mussels. Add a dash of cooking liquid and a splash of oil so that you have a nice, wet sauce. Discard any empty mussel shells, then transfer to bowls. Scatter over a little extra parsley and drizzle with a little more oil before serving.